The former Pittsburgh Steeler center was named to seven Pro Bowls and six All-Pro teams in his 13-year career. He was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team and received one of the sport's highest honors when he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August.
Even with all those accolades, there's still something special about being celebrated by his school, the place where Dawson said "a light went off" for him as a football player.
This weekend, he will return to the University of Kentucky for Dermontti Dawson Day as part of Homecoming festivities.
"I am very honored that UK is honoring me during homecoming," Dawson said. "It is going to be fun. We are having an autograph session and then I am going to have a luncheon with the Board of Trustees and come over to walk-through practice Friday morning as well. I am truly honored that UK is honoring me this week."
Dawson, who played at Kentucky from 1984-87, will attend UK's game against Georgia at 7 p.m. ET. Two hours before kickoff, he will sign autographs at the Wildcat Refuge. He will also be honored on the field during the first half of the game and the first 10,000 fans to arrive at Commonwealth Stadium will receive a Dermontti Dawson rally towel.
UK head coach Joker Phillips was a teammate of Dawson's during his time as a Wildcat. The Kentucky football team had just begun fall camp at the time of Dawson's enshrinement, meaning Phillips was unable to attend. Phillips is now looking forward to catching up with Dawson, who played on both sides of the ball before settling in along the offensive line at UK.
"Congratulations to Dermontti Dawson, teammate and Hall of Famer, getting honored this week," Phillips said. "I'm looking forward to seeing him and getting a chance to visit with him."
Dawson will be returning to more than just his alma mater this weekend, as he is a native Lexingtonian and alumnus of Bryan Station High School. There, he was coached by UK's current UK Associate Dean for Academic and Student Services, Steve Parker. In fact, it was Parker and future UK teammates Marc Logan and Cornell Burbage who helped give him the push he needed to give football another try after quitting the sport as a youngster.
"I never would have played football again if it hadn't been for Coach Parker coming up to me in the hallway in Bryan Station and asking me to try out," Dawson said. "Sometimes you need a little push from someone and an encouraging word from a coach or teammate and that was what made me try out again and Mark Logan and Cornell Burbage asking me as well."
Parker ended up accepting Dawson's invitation to serve as his official Hall of Fame presenter in Canton, Ohio.
After playing for Parker, Dawson chose to stay home and attend UK so he could participate in both football and track and field. With Jerry Claiborne as his head coach, Dawson would come to realize his future was on the gridiron, but the lessons he learned extended well beyond the football field.
Dawson recalls one specific instance that reflects everything Claiborne taught him. Players would head to the locker room after practice and discard tape, which usually resulted in more trash landing on the ground than anywhere else. One day, Claiborne intervened.
"Coach surprised us one day and said, 'Hey, there is a lot of tape on the floor and I don't care if you put it on the floor or if someone else put it on the floor, but I want you to pick it up,' " Dawson said. "So he just wanted to teach those lessons about character when people aren't sitting there watching you. That attention to detail and the small stuff, those are the things that Coach Claiborne used to talk about and those are the things that I carry with me each and every day."
For all the life lessons he picked up as a Wildcat, he had plenty of fun too. Dawson was an All-SEC performer as a senior and played on the 1984 team that went 9-3 and won the Hall of Fame Bowl.
"I tell you what, my time at UK was a great time in my life being in college," Dawson said.
He figures to make some more memories this weekend.